by Corey Pronman
According to a report from Renaud Lavoie with RDS, the Philadelphia Flyers signed Petr Straka to an ELC.
Straka had a great 17 year old season in the QMJHL in 2009-10 where he led QMJHL rookies in scoring and was named to the CHL All-Rookie team. Straka was then drafted by Columbus in the 2nd round in the 2010 Entry Draft, 55th overall. Straka tailed off though in his two post draft seasons. He was underwhelming in both QMJHL and World Junior play, resulting in Columbus electing not to sign him last June.
In his overage season, Straka has looked much more impressive. Straka has always has the great speed and puck skills, but was plagued by consistency issues, as well as iffy defensive and physical play. This season he always seemed to be making plays though, and not just with the puck as Straka displayed more defensive ability as well.
I wouldn’t advise get overly excited about him as a prospect. There is a long list of once touted prospects who play well as a 20 year old versus much younger players in the CHL. Still seeing Straka progress as much as he did this year is hard to portray as a bad thing, and at the very least he is a player who has a chance to be play on a scoring line. It remains to be seen though as he begins his pro career if he can play a pro style game in North America against tougher competition. Philadelphia also lacks youngsters in their pipelines with significant offensive tools and at the least he adds some depth on that front.
The Chicago Blackhawks signed Drew LeBlanc from St. Cloud State in the WCHA seemingly right after he was awarded the Hobey Baker for best player in college hockey. There is sometimes good reason for reservations when players win that award in terms of NHL expectations, as they are usually older, small players even if they have great skill. Past winners like Spencer Abbott and Andy Miele come to mind. The 23 year old LeBlanc has several NHL caliber skills though and at 6′0′’ 195 his size seems to be decent enough to make him a good NHL prospect considering his other gifts.
When you watch LeBlanc his hockey sense and overall puck possession skill is immediately noticeable. He was the 7th leading scorer in the NCAA, with the most assists which is a stat that speaks to his great playmaking skills. LeBlanc is a player who consistently makes above-average passes, can slow the game down well and is a player who the offense flows through. He’s an aware and diligent defensive player who shows the two-way hockey sense to play versus good players and kill penalties. He also has an above-average amount of puck skill.
With LeBlanc the only two quibbles are he’s a pretty average skater, slightly below-average for his size, and he could use a little more bulk especially for a 23 year old. Other than though he looks like a real good prospect and with Chicago graduating the likes of Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger in recent years, he becomes one of their better forward prospects although not at the level of a player like Teuvo Teravainen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the NHL within the next year and he projects as a top six forward. Chicago has one of the deepest organizations in terms of young talent, and this signing was another solid addition to that depth.